THOMPSON, Paul Beilby (1784-1852), of Escrick Park, Yorks. and 29 Berkeley Square, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1826 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 1 July 1784, 3rd s. of Sir Robert Lawley, 5th bt.† (d. 1793), of Canwell Priory, Staffs. and Jane, da. of Beilby Thompson of Escrick and sis. and h. of Beilby Thompson†; bro. of Francis Lawley* and Sir Robert Lawley†, 6th bt.. educ. Rugby 1795; Christ Church, Oxf. 1803; fellow, All Souls 1806-17. m. 10 May 1817, Hon. Caroline Neville, da. of Richard Aldworth Griffin (formerly Neville)†, 2nd Bar. Braybrooke, 4s. 1da. suc. uncle Richard Thompson to Escrick 12 Sept. and took name of Thompson by royal lic. 27 Sept. 1820; cr. Bar. Wenlock 13 May and took name of Lawley before Thompson by royal lic. 1 June 1839; suc. bro. Francis as 8th bt. and to Salop estates 30 Jan. 1851. d. 9 May 1852.

Offices Held

Ld. lt. Yorks. (E. Riding) 1840-7.


Lawley, as he was first known, was named after his maternal great-grandfather, Beilby Thompson (d. 1750), and great-uncle (1742-99), Member for Hedon and Thirsk, whose Yorkshire estates, worth almost £16,000 a year in 1813, he inherited in 1820 on the death of his uncle Richard Thompson, whose name he then took.1 His father, who represented Warwickshire, 1780-93, ‘under Whig auspices’, died when he was eight and his eldest brother Robert, 16 years his senior, succeeded to the Lawley baronetcy and estates in Shropshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire. As stipulated in their father’s will, Lawley and his elder brother Francis remained in their mother’s care and were provided for by Sir Robert, who, having failed to realize his political ambitions in Warwickshire and at Wenlock, where he had land and a claim to the barony, sat for Newcastle-under-Lyme as a Whig, 1802-1806, before leaving for Naples, where he devoted himself to art collecting.2 Lawley remained at Oxford until he married, when Sir Robert made Bourton Cottage, near Much Wenlock, available to him. He improved the property, oversaw management of the estate and sponsored local charities.3 At the general election of 1820, after securing the support of Edward Littleton*, Richard Thompson and his wife’s cousin, the Grenvillite Sir Watkin Williams Wynn*, who possessed the second largest interest at Wenlock, Lawley belatedly announced his candidature for the borough, ostensibly to prevent Cecil Weld Forester of Willey Park returning two new Members, his brother Francis Forester and the anti-Catholic heir to Kinlet, William Lacon Childe.4 He was defeated, and from Florence, 1 Apr., Sir Robert wrote:

I have long from the papers been informed of your attempt upon Wenlock and of its result; and I am sorry to say that I cannot afford you my approbation upon that subject. You have no right to avail yourself of your accidental residence upon that estate to procure to yourself any personal advantage unless it is yours, or without the express approbation of myself and of Francis, whom it appears you have not consulted in the business.5

He nevertheless offered his future assistance, provided ‘you determine to pursue patriotic and independent principles in Parliament’.6 Over the next two years, and with Richard Thompson’s wealth to draw on,7 they foiled Weld Forester’s attempt to take the title Baron Wenlock when he became a coronation peer;8 and, by instigating civil actions, so threatened his purse and his supremacy at Wenlock, that he agreed to share the nomination with Williams Wynn. On 18 June 1822 Lord Forester, as he now was, shook hands with Thompson, as Lawley had become, as Member for Wenlock at the next election.9 To precipitate it, Thompson offered his interest to Childe at the Shropshire by-election in December 1822, but nothing came of it,10 or of his prospects the following year of securing the Whig nomination for Yorkshire, where he now resided.11 He was returned for Wenlock at the general election of 1826, when, despite constituency pressure and his dissatisfaction with the Wynnstay agent, he steadfastly refused to promise to oppose Catholic relief.12

Thompson, a silent Member, who acted in opposition to the Weld Foresters, and apparently independently of the Williams Wynns, cast his few known votes with his brother Francis, who since coming in for Warwickshire in November 1820 had divided steadily with the Whig moderates.13 He voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., but presented Wenlock’s petition against it, 23 May 1827.14 During the recess he travelled on the continent, where, according to Sir Brook Taylor, who met him in Munich, he said that he thought the coalition ministry had been strengthened by Canning’s death.15 He divided for Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. Thompson was one of 15 Members that the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary Planta predicted in February 1829 would ‘probably support the securities rather than endanger’ Catholic emancipation and he divided for it 6, 30 Mar. 1829. He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May. He is unlikely to have been the ‘P. Thompson’ listed in a minority of 12 for imposing fixed duties on corn imports, 19 May 1829. He was granted a fortnight’s leave ‘on account of illness in his family’, 2 Mar. 1830. He presented and endorsed his constituents’ petition for criminal law reform and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 29 Mar., and paired for the latter, 14 May. He seems to have lacked Francis’s commitment to the revived Whig opposition, but divided with them on the ordnance salaries, 29 Mar., and the Terceira affair, 28 Apr., and for Jewish emancipation, 17 May 1830. He was included in the deputation from the select committee on the Holyhead roads bill which pressed the duke of Wellington to sanction changes in the route through Shropshire, 14 June.16 Before the dissolution in July he hurried to Wenlock, where, assisted by Williams Wynn, he came in unopposed, after the local ironmasters decided against fielding a candidate. On the hustings he promised ‘to vote for every proper measure of retrenchment and economy, to support our establishment in church and state, and to preserve my own independence’.17

Ministers counted Thompson among their ‘foes’, but he was absent from the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. He was granted a fortnight’s leave on urgent private business after sitting on an election committee, 14 Feb. 1831, and another week on account of ill health, 11 Mar. He divided for the Grey ministry’s reform bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. His return at the general election that month was unopposed.18 He divided for the reintroduced reform bill at its second reading, 6 July, against adjournment, 12 July, and using the 1831 census to determine borough representation, 19 July 1831, and sparingly for its details. He voted for the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July, and Dorchester, 28 July, and paired against enfranchising town and city voters in counties corporate, 17 Aug., and for the enfranchisement of Greenwich, 3 Aug. Sir Robert Lawley became Baron Wenlock at the coronation, and the brothers attended a meeting of the bill’s supporters at Lord Ebrington’s house, 21 Sept.19 Thompson voted for its passage that day, and for Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831.

Despite their differences with the Williams Wynns on reform, the Thompsons remained regular guests at Wynnstay, and acted as political advisers to Caroline Thompson’s nephews Henry and Sir Stephen Glynne when they came in for Flint Boroughs as reformers in 1831-2.20 Thompson paired for the revised reform bill at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, and voted for its provisions for voter registration, 8 Feb., Appleby, 21 Feb., Helston, 23 Feb., and Gateshead, 5 Mar., having also paired for the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb. 1832. He divided for the bill’s third reading, 22 Mar., the address requesting the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May, and the second reading of the Irish measure 25 May. He voted with government on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., but is not known to have voted on the Russian-Dutch loan. He voted to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June. Later that month he funded reform celebrations at Lawley Bank21 and in Yorkshire, where he stood as the ‘Liberal Orange candidate’ for the new East Riding constituency at the general election in December and was returned unopposed.22 The Williams Wynns considered his conduct on his retirement at Wenlock, where he neglected to assist Charles Williams Wynn’s son-in-law James Milnes Gaskell†, ‘very shabby’, notwithstanding his willingness to support Charles Williams Wynn in preference to the Whig, Littleton, for the expected vacancy in the Speakership.23

Thompson was admitted to Brooks’s, 26 July 1834, and remained a lifelong Liberal, although he opposed them over the appropriation of Irish church revenues in 1836. He lost his seat in 1837, and in 1839 was created Baron Wenlock, which title had been in abeyance since his brother’s death without issue in 1834, and was of no interest to Francis (d. 1851), whose heir in the baronetcy he remained.24 Appointed lord lieutenant of the East Riding in 1840, he resigned in 1847 because of failing health, and died in May 1852 at Escrick, which he had largely rebuilt, and where, as throughout his estates, he had endowed a village school, introduced cottage allotments and promoted agriculture. He was buried in the Thompson family vault at Escrick, whose church, consecrated in 1857, became his memorial.25 He was succeed in his titles and entailed estates by his eldest son Beilby Richard Lawley (1818-80), Liberal Member for Pontefract, 1851-2, having settled the Yorkshire estates of Kelfield and Stillingfleet, which were to provide incomes for his four younger children, on his widow (d. 1868) for life.26

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. J.T. Ward, ‘E. Yorks. Landed Estates in 19th Cent.’ E. Yorks. Local Hist. Ser. xxiii (1967), 21; HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 366.
  • 2. PROB 11/1230/159; HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 393-4.
  • 3. Hull Univ. Lib. Forbes Adams mss DDFA/39/45/2-19.
  • 4. Salop Archives, Weld Forester mss 1224, box 337, corresp. C.W. Forester and Sir. W. Williams Wynn, 25, 26, 28 Feb., B. Lawley to C.W. Forester, 1, 2 Mar.; Forbes Adams mss 39/45/20; J.D. Nichol, ‘Wynnstay, Willey and Wenlock’, Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. lviii (1965-8), 220-31.
  • 5. Forbes Adams mss 39/45/21.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. PROB 11/1634/453; Forbes Adams mss 39/46; Salopian Jnl. 18 Oct.; Salop Archives, Corbett of Longnor mss 1066/125, diary of Katherine Plymley, 2 Nov. 1820.
  • 8. Forbes Adams mss 39/45/23-27; Add. 38369, f. 332.
  • 9. Weld Forester mss, box 337, private mem. made in London; J. Pritchard jun. to sen. 18 June; NLW ms 2794 D, Lady Williams Wynn to H. Williams Wynn, 18 June 1822.
  • 10. Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 395; Staffs. RO, Weston Park mss D.1287/10/4a, Childe-Forester corresp. [Nov. 1822]. See CHILDE and SHROPSHIRE.
  • 11. Fitzwilliam mss 114/2/1.
  • 12. Salop RO, Blakemore mss 604, box 8, Lord Forester’s letterbk. pp. 120-1; Salopian Jnl. 14 June 1826.
  • 13. Norf. RO, Wodehouse of Kimblerley mss KIM6/37, Walton to J. Wodehouse, 7 Nov. 1820.
  • 14. The Times, 24 May 1827.
  • 15. NLW ms 2796 D, Taylor to H. Williams Wynn, 18 Oct. 1827.
  • 16. Wellington mss WP1/1119/11; 1159/53.
  • 17. NLW ms 2797 D, Lady Williams Wynn to H. Williams Wynn, 13 July; Wolverhampton Chron. 14, 28 July, 4 Aug. 1830.
  • 18. Salopian Jnl. 27 Apr.; Shrewsbury Chron. 29 Apr. 1831.
  • 19. Greville Mems. ii. 283.
  • 20. NLW, Glynne of Hawarden mss 32, 5204; UCNW, Mostyn of Mostyn mss 265, E.M.L. Mostyn to fa. 17 Mar. 1832.
  • 21. Shrewsbury Chron. 29 June 1832.
  • 22. York Herald, 22 Dec. 1832.
  • 23. NLW ms 2797 D, Fanny to H. Williams Wynn, 7 Nov. 1832; NLW, Coedymaen mss 234.
  • 24. The Times, 4 May 1839.
  • 25. VCH Yorks. E. Riding, iii. 14, 19-21, 28, 164; York Herald, 15, 22 May; Illustrated London News, 22 May; Gent. Mag. (1852), i. 617-18; Ward, 21, 68, 72.
  • 26. PROB 11/2158/676; Illustrated London News, 28 Aug. 1852; Ward, 20, 72.